The Do Commands: Be Free

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Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:34-36 (NLT)

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. Galatians 5:1 (MSG)

So stand strong for our freedom! The Anointed One freed us so we wouldn’t spend one more day under the yoke of slavery, trapped under the law... Brothers and sisters, God has called you to freedom! Hear the call, and do not spoil this gift by using your liberty to engage in what your flesh desires; instead, use it to serve each other as Jesus taught through love.  For the whole law comes down to this one instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself,”  so why all this vicious gnawing on each other? If you are not careful, you will find you’ve eaten each other alive.                          Galatians 5:1, 13-15 (Voice)

The founding fathers of the United States wrote that every person has the absolute right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yesterday, in the US, we celebrated Independence Day, the day we commemorate our freedom from the English Monarchy.  It seems like that notion has morphed into the idea, I can do whatever I want.

Jesus has a different take on freedom.

Christ said He came to bring Good News to the poor, release those in captivity, give sight to the blind and set the oppressed free, when, in the temple, He read from Isaiah 61. Jesus also said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!” in John 8:32.

Both times those hearing Jesus were put off my His comments. In John, the response was, we have never been slaves to anyone!  That was a telling statement. That feeling may be the one welling up in your heart right now, since we like to think of ourselves and self-directed, as free. After all, if you’re a Christian, didn’t you make that decision of your own free will?

The message of Jesus is; apart From Him, there is no true freedom.

Jesus explained it in terms the crowd listening to Him could understand. A slave is not a family member. A slave has no civil rights, no rights to the inheritance, no ownership. Everything a slave receives comes from and belongs to his or her master. Jesus was saying sin is not a very good master. With sin as your master, in the end, you are penniless, unrepresented and hopelessly lost. Try as you will to be free on your own and you will need to return to this master, who is not interested in your well-being, simply because you have no recourses of your own.

A son, on the other hand, is protected, gains his father’s land, wealth, and is part of a family unit. A son or daughter has an identity because of his or her father. With a Father and a family, there are resources, there is distinctiveness, and there are people on whom you can depend.

That is the message of Jesus’ freedom. It’s freedom from the selfish task-master of sin. It’s the freedom to be a child who is cared for by a loving heavenly Father who has infinite resources and infinite love for His children.

That family tie does carry responsibility. Paul goes on in Galatians Chapter 5 to say that freedom from sin should cause us to serve each other in love. True freedom is not simply doing what makes you happy and in meeting your own needs, but in serving others in love.

Christ calls every one to be free in His forgiveness. Accepting the gift of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross makes it possible for you to stop being a slave to sin and become a child of God.

Be free in Christ today!

Father, thank You for true freedom.  Freedom that allows me to live the life of love and service that You intended.  Help me to think of others.  Teach me that true freedom comes from knowing You.  Teach me to say “no” to myself and “yes” to the freedom of Your plan for me.

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The Do Command: Follow Me

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Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”        Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT)

I dropped a pack of sugarless gum on the floor. Quicker than I could bend over to get it, Ozzy had it in his mouth and was chewing it up. Ozzy is usually on “floor detail” and helps keep the kitchen floor clean but sugarless gum is toxic to dogs. The match began. “Drop it! Drop it! DROP IT!!” Ozzy clinched his jaw, he wasn’t giving up this tasty treat without a fight.  The thing Ozzy didn’t understand, that single pack of gum, if ingested could end his life. After a short wrestling match, I pried the gum from his jaws. Although the taste of the gum was delightful to Ozzy, I had a better plan for him, one that included him staying alive.

Today’s “DO” command is one of the most difficult—lose your life, follow Jesus.

Hot on the heels of Jesus scolding the Pharisees, Jesus gives His disciples a pop quiz, “Who do men say that I am? Who do YOU say I am?” Then Jesus lets His disciples in on the master plan; He was going to die and rise from the dead.

Poor Peter. He passes the pop quiz by making the bold statement that Jesus is the Messiah. For a moment, Peter’s the teacher’s pet. Then his next statement, the one in which he tells Jesus to stop that silly “being killed” talk gets him in trouble. Peter scolds Jesus for entertaining the notion He’ll be put to death and Jesus calls Peter “Satan.”

I’ve always thought Jesus’ words were harsh. It’s serious stuff when Jesus calls you names, especially if He calls you Satan. How did Peter go from You got it! to Get away from me, Satan! ?

Jesus was trying to tell His closest friends He was going to give up His life to redeem humanity from the curse of sin. There was no misunderstanding among the disciples when Jesus commanded them to take up their cross. Crosses weren’t necklaces or bumper stickers in the time period; they were the instruments of torture and death. Jesus was plainly telling the disciples following Him carries a cost, a cost equal to the one He was about to pay.

So why did Jesus have such harsh words for Peter? In this moment when the human side of Jesus was no doubt reeling in anguish over the soon-to-transpire, diabolical death of crucifixion, He hears a familiar voice. Jesus heard the same voice that tempted Him to make the rocks into bread, take the throne of an earthly kingdom and throw Himself off the temple—to do follow His will and take the easy way out. Since the temptation was the same, Jesus’ response is the same, “Get Away, Satan!”

The cross Jesus was about to bear required total commitment. Jesus calls His followers to the same cross. The cross Jesus commands His followers to carry is not a cross of compromise, ease or indulgence. It’s not the call one would chose without consideration. It’s the path of loss and sacrifice.

So why would anyone choose to follow Christ? Let me turn Jesus’ question from verse 26 around; what would you sacrifice to gain eternal life with your heavenly Father? Does that question change your perspective?

Eternal life: That doesn’t sound cheap. The life of Christ was not your average sacrifice. How could you dare give anything less than your life in exchange for something so precious? This isn’t a command about works. Nothing can make you holy short of believing in the sacrifice Christ made for you.  It’s a command to let go of what doesn’t matter. It’s a call to follow God’s plan and not yours. It’s the call to abandon the comfortable. It’s the call to let go of what will ultimately hurt you, and pick up the one thing that can give you life.

Following may involve temporary sacrifice. Following may involve losing your physical life. Following may involve actual suffering. The value of the reward the follower receives is as incalculable as the price which purchased the reward is immeasurable.

Christ simply calls us to His calling when He says; “Follow me.”

Father, thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son for my salvation. Loosen my grip on the things that don’t matter. Make me a follower. Help me focus my thoughts and desires on Your plan. Teach me the value of what I stand to lose and the value of what I stand to gain.

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The “Do” Command: Wait.

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Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.  They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. Isaiah 40:27-31 (MSG)

Isaiah 40:27-31

I don’t know about your culture, but in the U.S., we don’t like waiting. Breakneck speed is the norm. To accomplish this non-stop life—express lanes exist for quick a checkout at the market, you can pay at the pump so you need not leave your vehicle while gassing up, ATMs allow you to carry out banking transactions from your car, fast lanes are reserved for those going the speed limit (or faster) and large airports have “moving sidewalks” so when your feet aren’t moving, your body is.

If you do happen upon a situation in which the non-stop pace slows, note the reaction of those around you, or note your reaction. The fidgeting begins instantly. Individuals begin looking around for a faster line or some way around the delay. Watch the fidget explode into anger if someone new to the line, passes someone has been waiting.

We aren’t good at waiting. I’m not good at waiting. I try to keep myself in check, but many times, I get the best of myself and push ahead when I should just be still. If you feel convicted by today’s post, know it’s the Holy Spirit—He’s poking me today, too.

Why is God’s command, “Wait”? It’s a good question, not one answered by the often quoted Isaiah 40:31. This verse provides the outcome of waiting, renewed strength, but it doesn’t give the why. As the little children we are deep in our hearts—isn’t the WHY what you seek?

To find the Why one must back up a couple of verses. I included them today.

The frank truth is you and I are ill-equipped to move ahead without God. You can connive, scheme and plan all you like. Since it’s activity it feels like you’re doing something to make your situation better or accomplish your goal. Planning gives you a sense of getting things done. Waiting simply wastes time.

The problem is, you and I are truly powerless to accomplish our plan apart from God. You see, God sees what is ahead. He’s not in heaven hoping His plan works out, that things fall together correctly or that He can stay focused long enough to accomplish His plan. He knows how to work things out—He has planned for every contingency. As random as some events seem to you, not one has caught God off guard.

To the question, “Why wait for God?” I ask, as Isaiah did, “Why would you NOT wait for God?”   He has a plan. It’s a great plan.

God offers you the option; stress, plan, worry, try to control things completely out of your control or wait. That’s the key to the renewed strength. Instead of the dissipation of worry, the one waiting on the Lord can rest—finding renewal in God’s love and power rather than the exhaustion of worry over things out of his or her control.

Wait, trust, rest, be renewed; then soar, run, walk and thrive in God’s plan for you.

Father, thank You for having a plan for me. Thank You for working for my good. Teach me the benefit of trusting you. Teach me to rely on Your power and love. Help me soar in Your plan for me.

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The “Dos” and the “Don’ts”

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If you’re like me, rules serve at least two purposes. First, to cause rebellion to well up in my heart. Second, to offer guidance and maintain order. There may be more, but these are the first two that come to mind. Lest you think less of me, let me explain it to all the rule followers reading this. When I see a DO NOT TOUCH sign—I’m compelled to touch the restricted item. Disinterest might have filled my heart without the sign, but with it—I can’t keep my hands still—there’s a thrill in sneaking a touch.

So, if you’re like me reading a bunch of DON’T commands breeds rebellion. That was a HUGE struggle for me growing up in a Don’t touch this—Don’t do that fundamental home. When I read verses that contained phrases like, I have come to give you abundant life, and it is for freedom that Christ made us free I knew there was more to being a Believer than simple rule following.

If a Don’t Command breeds rebellion, perhaps a Do Command sounds better. It’s odd since Do Commands aren’t easier to accomplish—in many ways, they are more difficult. Freedom is a scary thing. The call to the believer is to DO something different—to BE something different—to be defined by the different things you DO and not simply by what you don’t do.

Journey with me this month as I struggle with some of the DO Commands God has for His children.

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Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (NLT)

John 3:1-17

In nursing school, I was not looking forward to my obstetrics rotation. Like Prissy, Scarlet O’Hara’s maid in Gone With the Wind, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies!” In fact, I know very little about babies and I like it that way.

What I do know is this, prior to the days of scheduled deliveries, babies came when they were ready. The baby has nothing to do with it. This is a day each individual has in common. No matter what race, socio-economic status or gender, each person is born into this world. The circumstances may vary but the result is the same. Another commonness we share, no one living had anything to do with his or her birth. It happened. You are the result. You weren’t consulted, instrumental or active in the process.

Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night. It’s amusing to me that John mentions this since it seems Nicodemus was in the dark, both literally and figuratively. Fortunately, Nicodemus came to The Light. Nicodemus had to rehearse this conversation in his mind many times before having the nerve to go talk to Jesus. It sounds like he had his speech and questions ready when he started with “Rabbi, we all know that God has sent you to teach us….” That was as far as Nicodemus got, he never made it to the “…but….” you can hear at the end of verse 2.

Jesus laid it on him, you must be born again and with that Nicodemus’ speech is ruined. Now he’s confused. Born again? I can’t be born again, I don’t fit!

Nicodemus was trying to reason out this “Jesus-thing” with his understanding. Jesus lovingly explained to him, becoming part of God’s kingdom has nothing to do with anything connected to this “flesh.” There was nothing Nicodemus, this esteemed religious leader, had to bring to the table. Nicodemus had things figured out in his own mind. After Jesus spoke, Nicodemus was speechless.

Jesus summed it up in the most famous Bible verse of them all, John 3:16. That verse begins with the driving force behind being born again. You see, Nicodemus was starting at the wrong place. Perhaps you are guilty of the same thing. Being born again doesn’t begin with you any more than your own physical birth day did.

GOD loved the world so much, He sent His only Son, not to condemn it to save it.

Take a step back to verse 15, if you believe that Christ died for you—that He paid the price you couldn’t pay for your sin—you have eternal life. You are born again. It’s a new day. God no longer looks on you as guilty, because Christ took that guilt for you when He died on the cross.

I can think of no better place to start. BE BORN AGAIN. Give up trying to figure out how to be good enough or acceptable in your own right, and accept the gift Christ paid for with His perfect sinless life.

Father, thank You for giving me a gift I could NEVER afford and didn’t even know I needed. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay my debt. Never let me take that for granted—never let me think I deserved that gift or can earn an equal substitute. Thank you for your love.

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What’s Behind the Rind

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So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  Romans 8:31-39 (MSG)

It was one little mistake.

I added $40 instead of subtracting $40 from my checkbook.

As the outstanding checks began to roll in, my account balance took a nosedive! Typically, as a student, my financial life was lived on the edge. I didn’t have a great deal of cushion so; the addition of the overdraft fees the bank so graciously added to my deficient account, essentially an $80 mistake and 5 days to payday, meant I was in serious trouble.

My stomach began to burn. There was no way I could come up with the cash to make my account whole. I called the bank in an effort to throw myself on their mercy. The best they could do was offer me a remedy for the checks that had not made it to the bank yet.

I had a balance of NEGATIVE $248.

That meant that my tight budget was going to begin $248 in the hole on payday.

Only one thing could fix my predicament; cash. I needed free cash. Borrowing money would not solve my problem since I never had extra cash in my budget. I was stuck.

Scripture makes it clear; every person has an overdrawn account with God. Everyone has empty pockets. Everyday more error, more sin, grows that deficient account you have with God. You can hope for a bonus on payday, you can try to be good enough, you can work at doing good things to offset your negative balance, but there is only one currency that works—and you don’t have it.

The circumstances are dire. You need a savior. Fortunately, there is one waiting to pay off your debt and bring your balance to zero. You only need ask for His help. With that prayer of confession, Christ makes your balance zero.

What happens after that? Your enemy may try to remind you just how overdrawn you were before Christ reconciled your account. Don’t look at that old statement-that statement doesn’t reflect your account today!! Once you accept Christ’s sacrifice for your sin, you need never worry about the balance again. Read what Paul wrote to the Roman believers:

Do you think anyone is going to be able

to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?

There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times,

not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats,

not backstabbing, not even the worst sins…

 

Nothing—NO THING—is more powerful than Christ’s forgiveness. Be forgiven. Accept the zero balance. Once you do, you’ll find God has a way of making deposits in your spiritual account; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith and self-control. God has blessings you can’t imagine.

The enemy of your soul will whisper that you don’t deserve forgiveness. That’s true, you don’t—but God’s grace gives it freely. You may hear the whisper that others will never forgive you. That’s true—but God will. God’s sacrifice was too great for it to be partially effective.

When you begin to doubt God’s love and forgiveness, thank Him for His grace. Thank Him for a zero balance.

Father, teach me to rest in Your forgiveness. Thank you for providing me a zero balance. Thank you for the deposits Your Holy Spirit makes in my soul. Help me learn to live in grace!

 

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Gnawing Through the Rind

squirrelFor I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us. Romans 8:18 (MEV)

Romans 8

It’s Monday morning. I’ll admit, I’m getting a slow start to a day that overflowing with projects and tasks. What am I doing instead of my work? Well, I’ll be honest, I just finished watching a YouTube video of a squirrel chewing a Jack-O-Lantern face into a pumpkin. (Promise me you won’t watch the video and ignore the rest of this post.)

Guilty as charged. Before you sentence me, read on.

As I watched this squirrel working diligently to get to the “yummy” part of the pumpkin, I thought of today’s verse. The tough outer rind of the pumpkin is only a barrier to the soft, juicy flesh and the nutrient-filled seeds the rind encases. The little squirrel worked diligently to get to the “good stuff.”

As a child, my father had my youthful, uninformed mind convinced that at any moment the “Russians” would take over the United States. Before there was a reality show, my dad was a Doomsday Prepper. Fortunately, financial constraints kept him from building a bunker.

I grew up with a lot of fear with regard to the future.

I’ve read and seen a lot of reaction to the recent legislation here in the United States. I’m not going to tell you how to feel about such things. I’m not even going to tell you who is right and who is wrong. I purposely avoid political discussions since politics are man’s way of solving man’s problems. If people could make people better—we’d have the solution by now. I pray for those in authority. I try to make the best decisions I can when I vote. I refuse to fret over legislation. I refuse to worry about current events.

I force myself to “keep gnawing” because there is something ahead that is worth it.

If recent events have you spinning—if dread holds your heart in its bony hands—if worry has you in its cold grasp—take some encouragement from Paul’s writing. Take a cue from a little squirrel gnawing through a pumpkin. The tough, useless outer rind of today won’t compare to the payoff that lies on the other side.

Yes, my jaw gets tired now and then—some days the rind seems thick and endless—but consider this. God doesn’t need to read Romans 8—He knows the end—He knows each step along the way. In love He gave Paul the words to write because He knew that you and I would need it—WE would need the encouragement to keep gnawing, to press forward, to be brave, to preserve to the end—to chew through the rind.

Politics may not concern you at all. Perhaps your personal struggles overwhelm you and consume you. If that is the case, calm your mind for just a moment. Read Romans 8. God loves you! God has a plan—and it is not dependent on your ability to make it work. God has your life in total control even when it seems like there is no plan and no end. God knows you. God knows what you need, when you need it, how to give it to you and in just the right amount. If you aren’t getting what you think you need, please don’t think God is unkind—since He knows everything He knows what is best. Trust me, I’ve learned this lesson first hand—TRUST HIM—He’s trustworthy.

God gave the words of Romans 8 to us because He knew how easily the reality of the present entangles the heart and squelches faith. He gave these words of encouragement to us for days just like this—whatever your day holds. When it seems like no amount of prayer is working—know that God is in control of yesterday, today and tomorrow—regardless of what this moment looks like.

Keep gnawing—there’s something good past the rind.

Father, thank You for Your overwhelming love. Thank you for loving me so much that You gave me words of hope like Romans 8. Teach me to trust in You no matter what I see, how I think things will play out or what other do. Remind me of Your never-ending love for me. Remind me of Your promises for today AND tomorrow.

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Totally Out of Context

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Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. The Scriptures give us patience and encouragement so that we can have hope. Romans 15:4 (NCV)

Romans 15

I just got back home from spending a long weekend with a couple of my cousins. As I’ve shared before, I’m from a large family. My family so large, and the age difference is so great, and the physical distances so far that we are not close—that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Two of my cousins decided to make the first move. It was supposed to be a big-scale family reunion but events changed the plans. We adjusted and had our own mini-reunion at the cabin in Guttenberg.

I will tell you, I was a little nervous since the three of us have spent little time together. In fact, the only time we’ve spent together in the past 25 years is at funeral luncheons and my mom’s 85th birthday celebration. This was going to be different—we were going to “live together” for a weekend.

What a joyous weekend it was! The laughter in the car during the first 10 minutes of the ride squelched my fear. We talked about some people in the past whose names I had forgotten. We talked about families, kids, careers and opinions. We told stories that involved terms I hadn’t uttered for years—CAs, Missionettes, Royal Rangers, and the Pentecostal Evangel.

This weekend the warmed my heart.

I took today’s verse totally out of context—I know that. My cousins and I spent a lot of time talking about the past. As we talked, I couldn’t help but think of the present and the future. I am who I am today because of my past—so are you. It’s been a slow process but I’ve learned from past mistakes. I hope that you’ve learned something from your past mistakes as well.   In this passage, Paul directs those who are stronger in faith to support and be examples to those whose faith is weaker.

Although I know this passage speaks of believer-to-believer relationships, can I extend the argument to non-believers? Things in the U.S. changed this week—God didn’t. His call to the believer is not a call to hate, to fear, to inflame or to name-call. His call is to seek out those who need His love. You and I can’t change those around us with words or rhetoric—God’s call is to glorify Him and let Him change those around us. God’s call is, if you think you are strong then be an example of His love to the weaker ones—whoever that is.

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I know, I know. My posting has been sketchy—but you can find some links below and soon, very soon I’ll be back to posing DAILY! On your way to the links is a bit of shameless self-promotion.

I have three devotional books you can order from Amazon.com. One is ALL about the Old Testament stories that were written in the past to teach us.

Finding the Holy in a mundane world is a good read for the new believer or non-believer. It offers an introduction to God’s character, Jesus’ example of grace, why grace is AMAZING and the call of the Christian life—doing good things not simply following a list of “don’ts”

The Books We Never Read is the best bargain—it’s a 3 month devotional. If you think the Old Testament is irrelevant to your life today, read The Books We Never Read and you’ll find the story of God’s grace told and re-told in the lives of people with funny names, who lived in places with strange names, but who share the same struggles you do. You’ll also find the same grace tucked in these ancient stories.

A Clever Disguise if you’ve read my devotional blog, you understand, Ozzy is my handsome gentleman who is wonderful in every way!   Ozzy is my schnoodle—schnauzer-poodle mix. He’s a great dog that teaches me every day about grace, trust, dependence and obedience. If you have a dog lover in your life—this is the devotional book for him or her. It’s priced for gift giving.

IF YOU ARE A PINTREST USER I have a board for my blog. You can “Pin” a post if you like it and want to share it using one of the share buttons below. (If you don’t know what that means—don’t worry—it actually means you are much more productive with your free time than some of us!)

At the end of the post, you’ll notice some social media icons. Ignore the ones you aren’t familiar with, but you can click on the ones you know and share this (or any) post via, Pintrest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Google+, Tumbler or email it to a friend.

…not because you possess any special gifts that God finds useful

The command isn’t Be God.

Alone changes the pace of life.

God doesn’t want to simply sit in a bowl looking pretty.

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Just One Taste

fruitOh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8 (MEV)

Psalm 34

It’s officially summer here in Iowa. Although, fruit is plentiful all year-long, there is something about the combination of fruit and summer. I think fruit is beautiful—bright red berries, light green grapes, and pale orange melon all punctuated with dark purpley-blue berries—the colors are exciting. The juice glistens in the sun as if it’s making the promise of sweetness.

This morning for breakfast, I had a big bowl of fresh fruit. It was beautiful. Fruit’s beauty in the bowl is only one part of the experience. Tasting fruit is what fruit is all about—sweet, tart, juicy and refreshing—all at once.

As beautiful as the fruit appeared in the bowl—I couldn’t fully enjoy it with only my eyes.  A distant view of fruit, although enjoyable, pales in comparison to the experience of eating the fruit. It’s only when the fruit and I interact that I finally realize just how good that beautiful fruit really is.

In Psalm 34 David wrote one my favorite phrases in the Bible, Taste and see that the Lord is good. David and God seem to be best friends.   David knows God. David talks to and about God as if they spent time together in person. From David’s words, you can tell there was an actual relationship between God and David.

God wants to have with a relationship with His creation. God doesn’t want to simply sit in a bowl looking pretty. God wants to have a close intimate relationship with you and me. He wants to interact, to be part of our lives. As David pleads, just take a taste—you’ll see—He’s GOOD!

If you don’t know God or long to know Him better, there are practical steps to follow.

  1. Get Acquainted with Jesus. In the gospel of John, Jesus made it clear; you can’t get to God without going through Him. Jesus is the only way that leads to the Father. The first step in knowing God is to meet Jesus.
  2. Come to God. Why do you have to make the first move? You don’t. God did. God is holy. Impurity can’t come into His presence. That standard leaves every human being in a sad state; no action will make a person pure. Lovingly, God took action and sent His Son to die. By accepting Christ’s salvation, Christ’s holiness becomes the substitute for your ungodliness. You can have a full relationship with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf.
  3. Pray. Would you ever meet a person who you wanted to be friends with, and never talk to them? How would your friendship develop?   It wouldn’t. Jesus took it for granted that a believer would pray when He said; “When you pray…” There is a difference between the statements; If you pray and When you pray.   Prayer doesn’t have to be a formal, well phrased speech. God simply wants to meet with you. You may never audibly hear His voice, but when you come to Him, He will come to you.
  4. Read the Bible. God longs for humanity to know Him and in knowing Him, to love Him. God gave HIs word to help finite, sin-sick, selfish humanity understand an infinite, holy, loving God. God introduces Himself to humanity through the words of scripture. Trying to know God without reading scripture is like trying to put together a 1,000,000-piece machine without looking at the schematic or instructions. You may be able to put a few pieces together but it’s almost impossible to image ever being able to complete a working machine without looking at the instructions. There is no way to begin to understand God without reading the Bible.

Taste and see the Lord is good. Follow the recipe, and you’ll agree; He’s good! If you try to fudge by skipping a step, don’t blame God when you end up still hungry. God longs for a relationship with you. Come to Him. Get to know Him. One taste won’t be enough. You’ll find yourself coming back for seconds, thirds, fourths…..

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Be Still

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Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10 (MEV)

My orientation is complete—once again, I’m a night nurse. There’s something different about working the night shift. I’m not sure what it is, or even how to explain it.

Usually, it’s quiet.

Since Saturday, Terry and Ozzy have been away and I’ve been working nights and sleeping days. I don’t hear little toe nails click across the floor as I open the refrigerator. There is no eager scramble when I drop a crumb on the floor. For supper, I ate Cheetos TM .  I hogged the bed and the covers.

I’ve been alone.

Alone changes the pace of life.

The house is quiet–making my thoughts loud.

Honestly, I like being alone. Don’t get me wrong—I love my husband and my friends. I like being alone, too.

I like the quiet. That wasn’t always true. Quiet used to freak me out—but now, when life becomes busy and hectic, I long for it.

Be sure you understand, alone and lonely aren’t the same words. Scripture offers a great deal of solace to the lonely—often reminding the reader—you are never truly alone. If you are lonely today, if you need a refuge, spend a moment alone with God.

Be still.

Father, thank You for the promise that I am never without Your love and protection. Teach me the value of being alone with You. Remind me that quietness helps me hear Your voice. Teach me that being alone forces me to rely on You. Help me to be still with You.

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The Copycat

copycat

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.    Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

Piercings and tattoos, Mohawk hairstyles and purple hair, business suits and fancy dresses, Italian shoes and shirts with logos; everyone wants to be someone. It seems that no matter who you are, you emulate someone. The fiercest individualist is usually walking beside another person who looks just the same. People are funny like that. Regardless of who you are or what you do, undoubtedly, there is someone you look up to and attempt to model.

Paul, after telling this band of new Christians that Christian maturity is the ultimate goal of the believer, begins his concluding remarks with; imitate God. Wow, that is a tall order. Fortunately, Paul goes on to explain.

I’m glad Paul used the example of children who learn from imitating their parents. Everyone has been in the awkward moment when a child imitates a less than complementary action of a parent. In those moments is the child the one at fault? No, because the child is learning—it’s the parent that gets the raised eyebrow of contempt.

That takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?  Do you understand you and I are the children?

The command isn’t Be God. The command is have enough contact with God that you know how He would act in any given situation and then, choose that action.

Paul  instructs us to keep company with God and learn. God reveals Himself primarily in scripture. Once you get to know Him, you’ll see Him all around you, even in the mundane things of life.

What is God like? In spite of the caricature you may have in your mind—God IS love. Not the self-seeking, selfish kind of love that plays out in the activities Paul mentions in the following verses. Paul uses Christ as an example of the kind of love God demonstrates.

God’s love is not second best. It is not convenient. God’s love is not a secret. It’s not the love of one who is holding back to make sure he or she isn’t hurt should the other person reject the offer.   God’s example of love is selfless, the kind of love that seeks the good of the other person. God’s love cost Him everything. He showed this love while being rejected.

That’s the call—love like God loves. Imitate Him. Learn enough about Him and you’ll be able to imitate Him more easily. He’s a patient parent. He’ll give you as many chances as you need to get it right.   The entire time you’re trying, He’ll continue to love you.

Love extravagantly.

 

Father, help me imitate You today. My world is so small and I try so hard to shape it into what makes sense to me. Help me see others through Your eyes. Teach me to love the way You do – – thanks for being patient; I still have a lot to learn!

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